Observing Hispanic Heritage Month in the ‘Burgh

by Kaidia Pickels, D&I Committee Member

National Hispanic Heritage Month 2022 kicked off on September 15th, marking the beginning of the annual celebration of the many historical and cultural achievements of Hispanic Americans and their immeasurable contributions to the United States.

To both honor this month and offer meaningful content that supports Hispanic American PR professionals in our region, PRSA Pittsburgh has gathered a selection of resources and organizations dedicated to the development, recruitment and promotion of Hispanic American PR talent here in the ‘Burgh. Feliz Mes Nacional de la Herencia Hispana!

Professional Development

The Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (PMAHCC) is the preeminent regional organization that advocates for Hispanic-led businesses and the Hispanic community’s economic and civic interests in Pittsburgh. Its activities include networking opportunities with Latino business people and professionals in the region, access to U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) resources and events, education and advisement for business owners and professionals, and invaluable development tools such as microloans, brokered introductions to corporations and elected officials, and access to public contracting opportunities.

Since 2008, the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA) chapter in Pittsburgh provides its members with opportunities for “professional networking, development of leadership talent, relationship building and proving of integrity.” The organization also offers best practice guides and a mentoring program to support Hispanic and Latino professionals in every stage of their careers.

The Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation (PHDC) is an organization that focuses on community development in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area and is “dedicated to improving the lives of Hispanics in the region, increasing the Hispanic population, supporting existing and new Hispanic businesses, and increasing Hispanic investment in the region.”

Lastly, Hispanic and Latino professionals in Pittsburgh should also be aware of Vibrant Pittsburgh, a nonprofit membership organization with the goal of attracting, retaining, and elevating a diversity of talent to boost the economic vitality of the Pittsburgh region. Last year we heard from Vibrant Pittsburgh’s president and CEO Sabrina Saunders-Mosby about how her organization works with member corporations to enhance their diversity of talent through its D&I Forum, Employee Business Resource Group (EBRG) Council, mentorship program, and more.

Recruiting and Promoting

The New America Alliance (NAA), the Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement (HACE), and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute provide employers with opportunities to engage with and invest in developing future Latinx leaders in business, and the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (HACR) represents nearly 50 million Hispanic professionals through its coalition of 14 member organizations that combine to create an unmatched national pool of Latinx talent.

Industry-specific groups like the Society of Hispanic Engineers (SHPE), Prospanica, and the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting (ALPFA) support Latinx talent in their chosen fields, and student organizations like the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities and the National Hispanic Institute (NHI) offer corporations the opportunity to invest in and network with the next generation of Latinx professionals.

Additionally, the Alliance for Board Diversity (ABD) and the National Diversity Council (NDC) are coalitions of diversity-focused groups that offer opportunities for corporate partnerships with diversity councils and referrals for aspiring women and minority professionals who aspire to be board members. The Association of ERGs and Councils also offers its members top-tier resources and training for developing and maintaining a diverse workplace.

INROADS, Inc. and The Ph.D. Project are organizations that support students from diverse backgrounds in pursuing professional opportunities and advanced degrees, which helps to create a more diverse future workforce. Both organizations provide opportunities for career placements and job postings.

Learn More & Take the PRSA Pittsburgh D&I Pledge

PRSA Pittsburgh encourages its members to access its Diversity & Inclusion Toolkit for more information on ways to cultivate diversity and inclusion in the workplace all year round.

Additionally, PRSA Pittsburgh’s D&I Committee is proud to present our D&I pledge to PRSA members. The intent of the pledge is to advance diversity and inclusion in the communications and PR profession. After taking the pledge, we hope employers spark hard conversations in their workplaces and begin to build a more diverse and inclusive environment, ultimately earning deeper trust and more commitment from their employees.

PRSA Pittsburgh encourages PRSA members to virtually sign and commit to our D&I pledge. We also encourage members to print out and share the pledge (PDF) with their colleagues and peers who may not have access to technology. 

Communications and PR professionals of all identities and seniority levels are encouraged to inquire about joining our Diversity & Inclusion Committee at info@prsa-pgh.org.

How to Stand Out: The Importance of PRSSA and Internships in College 

by Gianna DiPaolo

Studying public relations in college can sometimes feel time-consuming, frustrating, and even borderline impossible, but the way you can stand out and learn more about the industry can be summed up in two concepts: PRSSA and internships. 

By joining your school’s PRSSA club you can not only participate and learn in-depth public relations practices such as how to properly write a press release, client outreach, and special events, but you’re also exposed to its parent organization, PRSA Pittsburgh. Through this association, you have the opportunity to attend local agency tours, extensive networking opportunities, education, special events and more. In addition to joining PRSSA at your school, it is also imperative to hold internships as they teach you real-world experience and knowledge you might not have learned in the classroom. 

If you’re interested in either PRSSA or an internship, below are points I’ve gained by personally participating in both during my college experience. 

Networking Opportunities

Our whole industry is built around networking. From the time we step foot in a PR classroom to attending an Off the Clock event, networking is always and will always be around us. 


While you can go to these events once or reach out to contacts yourself, PRSSA and internships can facilitate that process and increase your odds of talking to peers and public relations professionals (and potentially even your future boss). 

Going along with that, expanding your network gives you the chance to practice your people skills. For me, and I’m sure for a lot of other students, talking to professionals can be intimidating or scary, but by consistently attending PRSSA and PRSA events, sitting in on guest speakers, and taking the jump to email professionals yourself, it gets easier and you build confidence over time. 

Portfolio Builder

Portfolio building in the simplest terms is taking the white papers, social posts, creative briefs, and whatever else you work on throughout your college career and pasting them into your own online portfolio or website for future employers to see. 

While all of the work you did throughout your college career is great, showcasing PRSSA and internship work along with that school work puts you ahead of the curve. Not only does this show your future employer more than the school standard, but it also shows passion, drive, and determination to go the extra mile in the field of public relations. 

Hands-on Experience

Yes – you have the necessary textbooks, the online articles, the LinkedIn Learning videos, and your professors while you’re in the classroom, however, you’re not fully exposed to the public relations industry until you take your first internship. 

From my experience with internships, I’ve learned a lot about public relations in non-profit, small business, and agency settings which are all vastly different. Depending on the internship you take, you’re going to learn the ins and outs of the industry, the standards of the industry, and even how you perform in different sectors of the industry.

If there is one thing you can take from this article, it’s to join your school’s PRSSA club, make a killer resume, write a unique cover letter, and get on Indeed, Handshake, LinkedIn, or whatever job platform you prefer and start applying to internships. Although I know it sounds like a lot, and it can be, I promise it is worth it when you’re in your first interview and can be proud of all of the work you’ve accomplished.

If you’re a communications professional now entering the industry, consider joining PRSA Pittsburgh.

Identify Without Discrimination: The Importance of Being Included

by Charlene Payne, PRSA Pittsburgh diversity & inclusion chair

June celebrated Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) populations across the United States. It was a time to reflect on the laws that were passed to protect the LGBTQ+ community and their rights to serve in the military, adopt children, and legally marrying the same sex. June was also a time to remember the Stonewall Uprising of 1969, the event that inspired the gay rights movement in New York City and cities around the world. 

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Civil Rights Act of 1964 Title VII “prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.” As we work incessantly to keep race and color in the forefront of our daily watch, sexual identity is equally important. The U.S. adult population that identifies with being LGBTQ+ has doubled over the past decade, with a possibility of increasing by 10% in the near future. 

Ensuring the LGBTQ+ community has a seat at the table

Through a recent webinar by the Federation of Associations in Brain and Behavioral Science  regarding LGBTQ+ and Multiracial Demographics in WMPD, the research shared that not identifying the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer community members hurts scientific and technological progress. The presentation stated Asians (5.3%), American Indians and Alaskans (0.7%) and the Native Hawaiian and Pacific (0.2%) populations smaller in number than the LGBTQ+ group (5.6%), but are numerically counted in industry-related surveys. It’s important to be counted here and on a larger scale so that the LGBTQ+ community can be supported, promoted, recruited and retained as a student, employee, or social contributor. 

The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs says

Since ancient times, governments around the world have counted their populations. By counting everyone, communities can determine the needs of their people;
where to build homes, schools, hospitals and where to invest in food supply, jobs and transportation. In this way, societies can progress.” 

The LGBTQ+ community faces discrimination academically, professionally, and in social arenas. Discrimination is prominent across generations and results in breakdowns financially, mentally and physically. Adding an underrepresented group, like race, adds another layer of distress, disappointment and misappropriation.

Discrimination compromises our present and future. The recent passing of the Equality Act (2021) has placed emphasis and expanded civil rights for the LGBTQ+ community. I look forward to a world where we can bring our experiences and knowledge to the table, progressing society as one human resource.

The importance of inclusion to the PR professional

Using inclusive language is important to PR professionals for language is how we inform, frame and respond to messages. I think inclusion has always been important to humans. We want to be on the team at all stages of life, including adulthood.

However, when teams become homogeneous, repeatedly hiring the same type of person,  they miss the opportunity to learn about different experiences and perspectives, allowing for enhanced creativity, innovation and problem-solving. Keep in mind, difference is where the sweet spot is – be sure to include it. 

Share our commitment to workplace inclusion

PRSA Pittsburgh encourages its members to access its Diversity & Inclusion Toolkit for more information on ways to cultivate diversity and inclusion in the workplace. 

As part of this toolkit, we encourage you to take our D&I pledge to advance diversity and inclusion in the communications and PR profession. We also encourage members to print out and share the pledge (PDF) with their colleagues and peers who may not have access to technology.

After taking the pledge, we hope employers spark hard conversations in their workplaces and begin to build a more diverse and inclusive environment, ultimately earning deeper trust and more commitment from their employees.


Meet the South Hills Interfaith Movement: PRSA Pittsburgh’s 2022 Public Service Client

By Jocelyn Buhite, PRSA Pittsburgh Public Service Committee Member

Everyone needs help at some point. Providing food, childcare, housing and other essential needs is a challenge for many families in the Pittsburgh region. Yet, stigma or shame leaves individuals afraid or embarrassed to ask for help. For more than fifty years, the South Hills Interfaith Movement (SHIM) has been there to help people meet basic needs, achieve self-sufficiency and build community. This year, the PRSA Pittsburgh Chapter selected SHIM as our partner to receive pro-bono PR and communications support through the 2022 Public Service Committee. I sat down with Seth Dubin, the Director for Development and Communications at SHIM to learn more about their work. 

Seth started by sharing the story of one community member that has really stuck with him and captures the spirit of SHIM’s work. Seth was volunteering at the organization’s food pantry and encountered a man who clearly wasn’t enthusiastic about asking for help. As the two of them walked around looking for groceries, Seth learned that the man lost everything due to a flood, including his car. Since he couldn’t get to work without a car, he also lost his job. 

In addition to providing the man with food that day, SHIM was able to provide financial aid to get his car repaired so that he could look for work again. Before the man left, Seth told him that he could always come back, and SHIM would be there for him. Seth said that he could feel the gratitude that the man had, the same gratitude that many others have when leaving SHIM’s pantry. 

“Because of our 250+ volunteer force and frontline staff, we are able to work directly with families. Prior to the pandemic, all our pantries were shop through and that was intentional. It provides the dignity that people deserve when they are asking for help, allows them to pick the things that they want and leave the things that they don’t, and allows the establishment of a relationship between the client and volunteer. From those conversations comes so much and we have that ability programmatically to respond to a variety of needs that people would present,” Seth said. 

Answering the challenges posed by the pandemic and inflation

SHIM was formed by a priest, rabbi and minister who wanted to create an inclusive community and address the challenges faced by people living in suburban poverty. SHIM has always adapted to meet the most pressing needs in the South Hills, but food insecurity, or the inability to consistently access nutritious and affordable food, has remained a top priority in this region. The COVID-19 pandemic put a spotlight on food insecurity, as many community members found themselves out of work and the highest inflation rate in decades made grocery bills increase.

Food insecurity disproportionately impacts communities of color and is particularly prevalent in our region. The 2020 FeedPGH Report stated one in five Pittsburgh residents live with food insecurity, nearly double the national average. One of the many factors that contribute to food insecurity is the housing crisis which has also impacted our region According to the Pew Research Center, 23% of renters are spending more than half of their income on housing, as the average U.S. rent has risen 18% over the last five years and the median home sale prices have surged.  

SHIM serves over 7,500 individuals through its food, clothing, financial assistance, education, family support and community building programs every year. From the results of a recent program evaluation, SHIM is planning to align its existing programs through a mentorship program to address the toxic stress that accompanies poverty. The mentorship program will help people establish goals that lead them to self-sufficiency using the EMPath framework. While SHIM’s programming and service operations continue to grow, it recognizes that it cannot do everything on its own.

Stitching together a quilt of community support through partnerships 

“At SHIM, we realize that we aren’t the answer to everything. While we do a lot and have a comprehensive list of programs, we cannot do it alone. Within the Pittsburgh ecosystem of social services, we have the ability to partner for more power,” Seth said. 

The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank helps stock SHIM’s pantry and the Department of Human Services of Allegheny County supports SHIM’s after school program, summer camp and Baldwin family center. Additionally, the United Way of Southern Pennsylvania provides funding for SHIM’s programs and SHIM partners with Jewish Family and Community Services on the ISAC program that provides immigrant connection services. 

Nearly 50% of the refugees in the greater Pittsburgh region reside in the South Hills, as well as a vibrant immigrant community. SHIM was founded on interfaith, multicultural principles of service and inclusion and continues to be dedicated to creating an inclusive community where everyone has the opportunity to thrive. SHIM’s continued service to individuals and the South Hills community is a perfect embodiment of Mr. Fred Rogers’ call to be a good neighbor

Jocelyn is a member of the PRSSA Chapter at Slippery Rock and a volunteer on the PRSA Pittsburgh Public Service Committee. She is currently also a Marketing Communications Intern at the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council

Share your skills

We are currently recruiting volunteers to join the Public Service Committee and support the PRSA-Pittsburgh/SHIM partnership. To learn more visit the 2022 Public Service page or reach out to committee chair Austin Price (austinprice2@gmail.com) directly.  


Making a Positive Impact To Celebrate Diversity, Today

by Chris Hayes, D&I Committee Member

The first half of the year is packed with diversity and inclusion observances, like Black History Month, Women’s History Month and PRIDE month, but leaders know that creating an inclusive communications industry is a year-round initiative. There’s no better time than today to reinforce our shared commitment to opening up the conversation to underserved and underrepresented groups. Celebrating diversity and creating a culture of belonging helps people gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of each other and honoring each other’s differences. 

Making real, tangible change is an ongoing responsibility, and if you’re looking for opportunities to further your support of diverse groups below are tactics that will set you on the right path.

Sponsor Women and People of Color

When it comes to supporting women and members of historically marginalized communities (HMCs), there’s a big difference between mentorship and sponsorship. While many leaders and people in positions of power believe they are sponsoring underrepresented groups, in reality they are acting solely as mentors. The key difference between the two is influence. 

Mentorship focuses on methods of direct help such as guidance, feedback and coaching. On the other hand, sponsorship involves externally facing support – advocacy, visibility and promotion. When a boss or leader amplifies the work or accomplishments of their minority employee, they are aiming to positively influence an audience’s perception of that employee. Instead of a two-way street between the sponsor and protege, it becomes a three-way relationship between the sponsor, protege and audience. 

If you’re an executive, team leader or influencer in the workplace, consider ways you can sponsor women and people of color instead of just mentoring them.

Educate Yourself on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

If you are looking for an easy way to become more inclusive in your work and/or personal life, there’s no better starting point than education. It could be as simple as reading books about other cultures, watching movies that depict the struggles of underserved groups or listening to podcasts hosted by people with varying perspectives. No matter what approach you take, you are guaranteed to come away from the experience with newfound knowledge that will benefit you and those around you.

You can also take a step back and listen more carefully to your friends and coworkers of different races, genders, sexuality and cultures. Engage in conversation with them and ask them for ways you can help be a more inclusive, supportive ally. Other ideas could be to participate in diversity and inclusion training at work and support minority businesses.

Recognize Implicit Biases

While nobody has control over how their upbringing affected their implicit biases, we do have control over how we identify these biases and move forward. In the workplace, implicit biases can lead to decreased productivity, underutilization of talent and stunted innovation and business growth. In our personal lives, these biases can result in fractured relationships and resentment among family, friends and colleagues. That’s why it’s so important that we learn to recognize our inherent biases and do what we can to eliminate them.

The first step toward removing implicit bias is to simply understand that they exist in everyone. By familiarizing yourself with racial, age, and gender biases, you can begin to recognize when you are engaging in them. Additional steps to help remove these biases include exposing yourself to a wide array of social groups and attending events of different cultures, practicing mindfulness, and adjusting your perspective to varying points of view.

Whether you’re a seasoned advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion or if you’re just starting your journey, there’s always more work to be done to help elevate and support underserved and underrepresented groups professionally and culturally.

Learn More & Take the PRSA Pittsburgh D&I Pledge

PRSA Pittsburgh encourages its members to access its Diversity & Inclusion Toolkit for more information on ways to cultivate diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Additionally, PRSA Pittsburgh’s D&I Committee is proud to present our D&I pledge to PRSA members. The intent of the pledge is to advance diversity and inclusion in the communications and PR profession. After taking the pledge, we hope employers spark hard conversations in their workplaces and begin to build a more diverse and inclusive environment, ultimately earning deeper trust and more commitment from their employees.

PRSA Pittsburgh encourages members to virtually sign and commit to our D&I pledge. We also encourage members to print out and share the pledge (PDF) with their colleagues and peers who may not have access to technology.

Communications and PR professionals of all identities and seniority levels are encouraged to inquire about joining our Diversity & Inclusion Committee at info@prsa-pgh.org.

Continuing the Conversation on DE&I in the Communications Industry with Fatou Barry, Founder, PR Girl Manifesto

by Taylor Fife, D&I Committee Member

Cultivating a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) in the PR industry is never done, but Fatou Barry, brand strategist and founder of PR Girl Manifesto, is passionate about the pursuit.

A leader of an inclusive virtual community of over 40,000 PR professionals, Barry is working to empower emerging and current PR and communications professionals to use their abilities to transform the industry, change the narrative and create a future of equitable and inclusive opportunities for all.

As a follow up to PRSA Pittsburgh’s 2021 virtual Black History Month event which featured Barry, Megha Pai, PRSA Pittsburgh D&I committee member, sat down again with the PR pro for an empowering and insightful conversation on the industry’s progress in implementing DE&I practices, how a career in PR can be a vehicle for advocacy, and provided tips to help both employees and employers excel in the industry and generate opportunities in the workplace.


DE&I in the PR Industry: Real progress or just for show? 

It’s no secret that 2020 and 2021 were transformative years for DE&I—but with so many companies pushing the envelope with new initiatives, have they truly been effective in actively paving the way for underrepresented employees or have their commitments fell short, making empty pledges without looking at the big inclusive picture, otherwise known as “diversity washing?” 

In Barry’s opinion, the industry has experienced positive shifts, but it still has a long way to go in increasing the pipeline of diverse individuals entering the industry.  

Highlighting an advancement, Barry says PR no longer feels linear and DE&I work is impacting women and women of color in PR by opening more doors for honest dialogue.

“In the past, there was a very tried and true path to get into the industry, but what we’re seeing now is greater acceptance and support for those who take a non-traditional route to a career in PR,” says Barry.

Barry believes that the continued embrace of job candidates with diverse career and educational experiences can help increase accessibility and eliminate a barrier to entering the industry by opening the door to more candidates with different backgrounds that can lead to greater innovation.

“PR is no longer just about knowing how to write. It’s multidisciplinary,” says Barry. “Job seekers with diverse backgrounds often have transferable skills like brand management and digital analytics that can help intertwine traditional PR practices with social and experiential.”

Barry also believes that the perception of the industry has continued to shift, thus opening doors for diverse candidates in non-PR fields to get involved with communications. 

“There are so many ways you can go with PR,” says Barry. “You can work for healthcare, tech or social impact brands, for example, and that’s not something that many people thought about five years ago.”

Barry also says greater workplace flexibility, such as work-from-home or work-from-anywhere options, brought on by COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, is helping to encourage diverse, equitable and inclusive practices in the industry. Employees are better able to plan their time, take actions to improve their well-being and achieve a healthy balance between their work and life.

Citing another advancement in the industry’s DE&I practices, Barry says she’s noticed a greater emphasis on how intersectionality affects DE&I efforts at work. The color of an individual’s skin, gender, disability, sexual orientation and any other unique identifier all interact to affect their lived experience and how they show up to work. A rise in popularity and implementation of employee resource groups (ERGs)—voluntary, employee-led groups whose aim is to foster a diverse, inclusive workplace—help aid in personal and career development and create a safe space where employees can bring their whole selves to the table. Allies may also be invited to join an ERG to support colleagues.

In contrast, Fatou also believes there are opportunities for the industry to continue to increase its DE&I efforts and offered the below tips for entry-level, seasoned professionals and employers to take action. 

How to Take DE&I Action as an Entry-Level Employee, Seasoned Pro & Employer

  • Don’t trend on a safety line with DE&I messaging When it comes to making imprints during nationally celebrated heritage months like Black History Month or Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, many companies trend on a safety line,” says Barry. “They think ‘this messaging feels safe’ or ‘we won’t get canceled for saying this,’ but I feel as PR professionals we must not be afraid to tell different stories or expose harsh truths.”
  • Honor DE&I commitments at work and in your community – “We need to ask ourselves, ‘how am I working toward ensuring diverse professionals are being treated equally and equitably?” and then, “what else could I be doing?” says Barry. 

To help PR professionals take the first step to act on their commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion in the communities in which they live and work, PRSA Pittsburgh created its inaugural virtual D&I pledge.

Additionally, Barry urges employers to find ways to connect with external communities that surround their company’s mission statement or investments. For example, if a brand’s mission is to increase accessibility to STEM education to underrepresented groups, the brand should seek out minority-owned non-profits or businesses that share its commitments for potential partnerships. 

  • Tell the stories and perspectives of the underrepresented and underheard – “One of the things that has always amazed me about PR is that we’re responsible for telling stories,” Barry says. “We have tremendous power as storytellers and changed narratives, change lives. Not only do we advocate on our client’s behalf, but we advocate on the stories that we believe should be told.” 

By shedding a light on the authentic stories of underrepresented groups or communicating health, social, political or environmental issues within that community that often go unheard, PR professionals are serving as a force for change and human progress. 

  • Act on DE&I commitments “25/8” – “Employers should recognize if they only speak on DE&I when an incident or tragedy occurs versus acting on their commitments all the time,” Barry says. “The same dedication and KPI-tracking that us PR pros hold ourselves to for client campaigns should also be applied to how we analyze DE&I progress in our companies.” 

Sharing Advice for Young Women and Women of Color in PR

Barry also offered career advice for young women and women of color who are current or emerging PR professionals. Her tips include: 

  • Master your communication skills – Relationship management is undoubtedly one of the most integral skills to the PR profession. PR professionals must learn to be comfortable with talking and engaging with clients, influencers and the media. 

Barry says, “Getting on the phone used to be terrifying for me but being able to carry a conversation and express your personality is extremely helpful in building those personal and professional relationships that can carry you far.”

  • Always be open to upskilling yourself – Barry believes PR professionals should lean into their creativity and become multi-faceted. This can be accomplished by pursuing graduate or doctorate level education, completing trainings and courses provided by your employer as well as on platforms such as LinkedIn Learning
  • Voice your concerns and hold employers accountable – “If you’re working for a brand that says they are diverse, equitable and inclusive, but not seeing any action or results, it may be easy to just pack your things and leave, ultimately deciding that workplace is not for you—and that’s okay and perfectly acceptable—but I urge PR pros to first voice your concerns to upper management and hold them accountable.”

Check out the inclusive and empowering PR Girl Manifesto community on InstagramTwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.

Communications and PR professionals of all identities and seniority levels are encouraged to inquire about joining our Diversity & Inclusion Committee at info@prsa-pgh.org.

5 Excuses Debunked: Consider your Accreditation in Public Relations

by Michele Papakie, D.Sc., APR

If you have five years of professional public relations experience, and you haven’t begun to pursue your accreditation in your field, what the heck are you waiting for? 

Earning your APR is an exciting challenge that serves as a third-party endorsement to your mad PR skills. All you need to do is apply, present a campaign you have RPIE’d (Researched, Planned, Implemented and Evaluated) to a panel of colleagues, then take a proctored exam of 132 questions.

Let’s discuss some reasons (excuses) you may have for not accepting this challenge and adding this impressive credential to your resume, business card and LinkedIn profile.

  1. “I’m not a good test-taker.” OK, fair. Neither am I. But, you have been living this work for at least five years. You know how to do it, and you’re good at it! You are equipped with a 161-page study guide, and you only need to get 82 questions correct to pass. Bonus: There is not ONE math question on this test.
  2. “I don’t have time to do this.” I have a mantra I use when I think I don’t have time for something: “If I only have a minute, it only takes a minute.” We make time for things that are important to us. And, preparing for the APR is classic multitasking. You are doing the work every day that will get you that accreditation. You need only carve out time to read a study guide a few times, present a campaign you’ve already lived and sit for an exam.
  3. “What if I fail?” To those of you who have never failed anything in your life, failure is not the end of the world. It is actually when we learn the most about ourselves. Study what you missed, and re-take the test. No biggie. (You’re not going to fail, by the way.) 
  4. “I have a job. It’s not going to help me.” For me, the APR process validated my public relations knowledge, skills and abilities. Studying for the exam was a robust review of the basics – things we can stray from as we work day-to-day in our profession. Any professional development you do throughout your life builds more than just your resume. It builds courage and confidence.
  5. “I can’t afford it.” It costs $385 to take the exam. That might sound like a huge chunk of change to you early in your career. I get that. But you should look at it as an investment in yourself. It may help you to get that next job that comes with a significant raise, and it’s way cheaper than a graduate degree. Employers may agree to help you with this cost, and maybe your PRSA chapter can, too, somehow.

If you choose to go for it, know you’re not alone. I am here to help. Reach out to me anytime for more information, michelepapakie@gmail.com.

Michele is the Accreditation Chair for PRSA Pittsburgh. She is an associate professor of strategic communication and media at Slippery Rock University. She earned her APR during the pandemic in August 2020.


April Showers Bring May Flowers

By Michele Papakie, D.Sc., APR

APR Month Brings “MAYbe I’ll Consider Doing That!”

If you have at least five years of professional PR experience under your belt, you should consider earning your accreditation in public relations. 

What’s involved? 

First you apply. Next, you prepare and make a presentation to a panel of APRs. Finally, you take a proctored exam. 

“Wait, did you say I have to take a test?!”

Let’s take some of the mystery out of the accreditation examination.

Start by taking 20-question Prometric online sample test. There are 132 questions on the actual APR exam that will test your knowledge in six areas. You only need to get 82 correct to score a 62% and pass. Did I mention there is NO MATH on the test? It’s way more fun than any SAT or GRE you have taken.

“OK, so that was a sample of the test. That wasn’t so bad. What else is on there?”

Check out the 161-page study guide you will use to prepare for the test. Before I applied to begin my APR journey, I read the study guide and thought, “Hey! I know a lot of this stuff, and I do it every day. I’m going to go for it.”

The rest is history.

If I can do this, you can do this. 

If you choose to go for it, know you’re not alone. I am here to help. Reach out to me anytime for more information, michelepapakie@gmail.com.

Michele is the Accreditation Chair for PRSA Pittsburgh. She is an associate professor of strategic communication and media at Slippery Rock University. She earned her APR during the pandemic in August 2020.


Spring into Action – Start Exploring the Possibility of Your APR Journey in APRil

By Michele Papakie, D.Sc., APR

Having been on the PRSA Pittsburgh executive board for a little over a year now, I am getting the impression that many of our chapter members don’t know much about the professional accreditation that is hanging out there for us to earn and proudly display on our resume, business card and LinkedIn profile.

April is PRSA’s Accredited in Public Relations (APR) Month

Why not commit some of your time this month to simply exploring the possibility of pursuing it?

The outstanding APR team at PRSA national has launched a new APR website and created a fancy new brochure that feature information on the APR and APR+M. Both the website and the brochure describe how and why you should earn your professional accreditation.

The BLUF, as we say in the military, or bottom line up front, is that all you need to do is apply, make a presentation to a panel of colleagues and sit for a 132-question exam.

What’s on the test, you ask?

Things you already know and do every day! The computer-based examination tests six groupings of knowledge, skills and abilities:

1. Research, Planning, Implementing and Evaluating Programs;

2. Leading the Public Relations Function;

3. Managing Relationships;

4. Applying Ethics and Law;

5. Managing Issues and Crisis Communications; and

6. Understanding Communication Models, Theories and History of the Practice.

Get Connected

If you have at least five years of professional experience in our field, I would love to meet with you for a coffee, tea or adult beverage to answer any questions you may have about the APR. I earned my APR in August 2020 during the pandemic. If I can do it, I know you can, too.

Michele is the Accreditation Chair for PRSA Pittsburgh. She is an associate professor of strategic communication and media at Slippery Rock University. She earned her APR during the pandemic in August 2020 and can be reached at michelepapakie@gmail.com.


A message from PRSA National’s 2022 APR Chair, Dr. Felicia Blow, APR

  • An innovative webinar series, “Top Talents Compete: Who’s Got the Greatest Communication Campaign?,” kicking off on April 6 and running on consecutive Wednesdays from 3-4 PM ET through April 27. Structured as an online professional development game show, Tara L. Smith, M.S., APR, will host three contestants applying the four-step process of research, planning, implementation and evaluation, and participants decide who wins each week’s category.

• Editorial coverage including a series of PRsay blog posts and articles in the April issue of Strategies & Tactics.

• Information on the upcoming APR virtual Boot Camp, being held June 22-24. The Boot Camp is a three-day intensive course designed to provide a setting for busy professionals whose schedules don’t permit extensive preparation time, but it is not intended for those just beginning to pursue their accreditation.

While these resources are featured in April, the value of accreditation is of course demonstrated year-round, and those of you who have earned it know well the opportunities it can bring. 

Finally, as a professional who earned my APR many years ago, and who worked hard as Chair of the UAB to establish the APR+M credential, I am so proud of the work being done to advance the importance of these credentials. I want to encourage and assist everyone in whatever way I can to consider securing their APR or APR+M, a key part of which will be broadening the diversity of PRSA members who have earned their accreditation.

And for those of you who are considering or beginning the process, I like what Monique Farmer, APR, PRSA Nebraska board member, had to say on last week’s Strategies & Tactics Live: Enjoy the journey!

Professional Development: Join PRSA Nationals for a Fun, Four-Part Webinar Series

Participate in a Fun, Four-Part Webinar Series from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays this Month

Join PRSA Learning for this exciting new webinar series! You’ll be the ultimate judge to determine who’s got the greatest communication campaign! Across four riveting Wednesdays in April, join in to judge the best strategic framework in communication from three award-winning contestants with substantial expertise in entertainment, nonprofit, retail and technology, and learn strategic skills along the way.

“Top Talents Compete: Who’s Got the Greatest Communication Campaign?will kick off April 6 and run on consecutive Wednesdays through April 27. Get registered today!

Structured as an online professional development “game show” that requires your participation, Tara L. Smith, M.S., APR, will host three contestants applying the four-step process of research, planning, implementation and evaluation (RPIE). You decide who wins each week’s category as the contestants compete for your highest star ratings to successfully be the “Top Talent,” winner of the Greatest Communication Campaign in this webinar series.

Here is a sneak peek at how this weekly competition breaks down:

Week One: Our three contestants will present the problem they were given the opportunity to solve, set the stage for their approach and dive into the details about how they conducted research for each of their respective campaigns. At the end of the webinar, you submit your rating for which contestant conducted the greatest campaign research.

Week Two: Contestants present their campaign plan. Who’s got this? You decide the champ.

Week Three: Contestants walk you through implementation, and once again you determine their effectiveness.

Week Four: The grand finale showcases how each contestant evaluated their campaign, and you determine once and for all who’s got the greatest communication campaign of this webinar series.

April is PRSA’s APR Month. This webinar is a great opportunity to learn from some practitioners who have earned their professional accreditation. Tune in to see them in action and to vote on their campaigns. Maybe you’ll be inspired to earn your accreditation!